When we read the label of a bottle or can of olive oil, we find repeatedly certain words: Refined olive oil, virgin olive oil, olive pomace oil. But what is the meaning of all of those names?

The names that olive oils receive for commercialization depend on their production process, regulated by the International Olive Oil Council. According to this regulation the olive oils that we can find normally in the market can be:

- Virgin olive oil

           o Extra virgin olive oil

           o Virgin olive oil

- Olive pomace oil

- Refined olive oil (or just, olive oil)


The virgin olive oil is, in essence, the juice of the squeezed and bottled olives. The process consists just in mechanical methods for grinding, decanting and filtering the oil. Only using olives at their optimum point of maturation, always processed within a few hours of harvest. However, it is not a cast-iron result. In order for virgin olive oil to get the "extra" qualification, it is necessary that an official panel of judges give a tasting endorsement of zero defects. Very often, this is a low temperature (less than 27ºC) process. This reduces productivity, but helps to keep a high quality in the product.

The oils of this first extraction, which do not reach the evaluation of the panel, could classify as virgin olive oil, or “lampante” (formerly used in lamps) olive oil. The virgin olive oil can have an average valuation of up to 3.5 (out of 10) in defects, and bottled, like the extra virgin, directly for consumption. If that level of defects is not reached, then we are in presence of a “lampante” olive oil. Lampante oil, under the current regulations, is not able for human consumption.

The residual (80% of the total mass) from this process is the pomace. Adding organic solvents to the pomace, and re-squeezing it. To evaporate the organic solvents included above, this liquid is filtered, and heated to a temperature between 200 and 300 ° C. This oil is not directly edible. Mixing this oil with virgin olive oil -which will offer color, aroma, flavor and nutritional properties-, allows this oil to be directly in the market under the name olive-pomace oil.

Lampante olive oil, virgin olive oils not submitted to the panel of judges and olive pomace oils will go through an industrial refining process. This process consists of:

- Purification: elimination, by adding water and phosphoric acid, of phospholipids and gums. Some protein components are also lost during this phase.

- Neutralization: elimination of free fatty acids.

- Discoloration: elimination of carotenes and chlorophyll.

- Deodorization: elimination, by heat, of the volatile components responsible for the odor, but also the polyphenols with their antioxidant properties.

- Winterization: elimination, by cold decanting, of higher melting point triglycerides.


This oil is colorless, odorless and tasteless. Under current regulation, cannot be directly marketed. To be consumable requires mixing it with extra virgin or virgin oils, so that it transmits some color, flavor and aroma. This mixed oil we will be marketed under the name of refined olive oil or, simply, olive oil.

You can directly eat raw refined olive oil. However, given the significant loss of nutrients, as well as the potential generation of benzo-pyrenes (which occur during heating in the refining process) greatly reduce their nutritional value, so we would only recommend it for frying.

Only virgin and extra virgin olive oils keeps intact all the nutritional properties- Their absence of defects and their special color, aroma and taste make them a true delight for the senses.

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What do the labels mean?

The differences of each product's classification are the following: